Philippe LeBel is focusing on health and language in his effort to represent Argenteuil in the National Assembly of Québec.  

LeBel was announced as the Parti Libéral du Québec (PLQ) candidate for the district on May 17. Voters across Québec will choose their next provincial government in the election scheduled for October 2.  

A shortage of doctors and challenges local patients have accessing health care is the main issue LeBel is addressing. He said 2,061 Argenteuil residents were without a family doctor in 2018 and 3,207 residents do not have a doctor in 2022. 

“To me, this is unacceptable,” LeBel said. 

He is accusing the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government led by Premier François Legault of abandoning efforts to ensure all citizens have a doctor and of abandoning health care reforms initiated between 2014 and 2018 by the former Liberal government of Premier Philippe Couillard. 

LeBel said he cannot understand why more people wanting to become physicians have not been given access to education. He said the restricted access to medical school means Québec is losing students to other parts of Canada and the United States. 

According to LeBel, 30 per cent of residents of the Laurentides region of Québec travel outside the region for health services. Many Argenteuil residents go to Ontario, particularly Hawkesbury and District General Hospital. LeBel said it ends up costing the Québec government more when patients seek medical attention outside the province. 

The PLQ has been critical of some of the reforms the CAQ government has made to the Charter of the French Language through legislation known as Bill 96. LeBel is concerned how it will affect the ability of anglophone Quebecers to access public services in English. 

“I really think they need a stronger voice,” remarked LeBel. 

He objects to the government’s use of the notwithstanding clause on the language law reforms. However, when reminded that past governments, including Liberal governments in Québec, have used the notwithstanding clause, LeBel said its use should not be renewed when it reaches its constitutionally mandated five-year limit. 

Although the changes made to Québec’s language laws are guaranteed to ensure anglophones have access to health care in English, LeBel is concerned that access will be diminished.  

The Bill 96 reforms have also restricted access to English-language Cégep, the system of colleges students across Québec may attend after completing secondary school and must attend if they plan to pursue university studies. The government is limiting the number of francophone students being admitted to English-language CEGEP and has cancelled the expansion of English Cégep facilities. 

LeBel said he respects the importance of bilingualism in the Québec economy and for that reason believes francophones should have option of attending Cégep in English. 

The PLQ has attempted to make climate change a significant component of the upcoming election campaign. 

“Two-thirds of our platform is on the environment, and collaboration between environment and economy,” said LeBel. 

The Québec Liberals plan to have the province be carbon neutral by 2050. The party wants to achieve that goal by using the province’s vast hydroelectric resources to produce hydrogen as an alternative fuel. 

Many roads in Argenteuil, both under provincial and municipal jurisdiction, are in poor condition. LeBel said one of the challenges is that municipalities have difficulty dealing with the Ministère des transports du Québec (MTQ).  

“We need a more decentralized administration in Québec,” LeBel said. 

To give municipalities better access to government departments and agencies, the Liberals are proposing to implement a network of regional directors who will work as liaisons between municipalities and the government.  

LeBel said the regional liaison positions would be filled through the public appointment process. When asked if there was a risk of the roles becoming another political patronage appointment, he replied, “I honestly hope not.” 

Agriculture is a significant part of the Argenteuil economy. LeBel said the government needs to do more to help farmers market their products and to encourage farm succession to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. 

“This used to be the core of Québec’s economy,” said LeBel. 

As the PLQ candidate, Philippe LeBel is challenging incumbent Argenteuil Member of the National Assembly, Agnès Grondin of the CAQ.